As I hope you all know by now, my new book, The Untrue Story of You, has just been published and is available on Amazon (so hurry, my children, hurry)
Which got me thinking about books. I’ve prepared my ‘desert island’ favourite 10 books in the hope that you might tell me yours. I’ve excluded obvious works, such as the Bible and Shakespeare, as well as fiction and philosophy books (but you can include all those in your list, if you like).
See here are my top 10 favourite books (in no particular order):
Teachings of Ramana Maharshi
Ramana Maharshi is ‘the man’. He was an Indian sage from the Hindu tradition—and particularly the Advaita school—who died in 1950. He wrote very little himself, other than a few pamphlets and some verses, and The Teachings are transcriptions of conversations he had with visitors to his ashram around 1935. When all is said and done, and the broo-ha-ha about the latest new thing has died down, I always go back to Ramana. I’ve done so since I was 16 and will probably do so while I have the strength to lift a book.
The First and Last Freedom, J Krishnamurti
Jiddu Krishnamurti was another interesting character, and one that I had the fortune to meet at his Brockwood school in Hampshire. He had his flaws, which have become apparent in biographies since his death in 1986, but, for me, this makes him more human and his struggles more interesting. Although there are many books by Krishnamurti, this was the only one he actually wrote; the rest are taken from lectures and dialogues or from notebooks.
The Zen Teaching of Huang Po
Essential wisdom on a stick. This is a small volume but you could spend hours understanding the implications of just one of the utterances. No fat, no fluff—just muscular and essential wisdom that goes to the heart of Zen, and, ultimately transcends it.
Consciousness Speaks, Ramesh Balsekar
I’m extremely suspicious of ‘spiritual lineages’. The popes do it, the Tibetan lamas do it, and there are some in the New Age movement who give themselves an authority by doing so. Balsekar was part of a lineage, too, with a line back to Nisagardatta and eventually to Ramana Maharshi, but this book is none the poorer for it. It’s the transcription of countless conversations Balsekar had with his followers. It blew me away when I first read it; I wonder if it would now?
The Three Pillars of Zen, Philip Kapleau
Those who have already read The Untrue Story of You will know I had a difficult upbringing with an abusive father. My refuge was my bedroom and my books, and The Three Pillars of Zen was one of my essential reads. Kapleau was an American journalist who became one of the leading Zen teachers in the USA. I loved The Three Pillars; it still reminds me of lazy Sunday afternoons and warm sunshine.
The Field, Lynne McTaggart
An immediate conflict of interest confession: Lynne is my wife. With that out of the way, The Field is one of the seminal works of the New Age, and truly is a meeting place between the spiritual and the new physics. I don’t think even Lynne quite realises just how important this book is.
In Search of the Miraculous, P D Ouspensky
This was Ouspensky’s account of his time with the mysterious Gurdjieff. I’m not altogether sure I like this book, but I was certainly intrigued by it, and by Gurdjieff’s strange teachings. Depending on where ‘you’ are, it may do something for you, but pass speedily by, you traveller of the night-time, if it doesn’t.
Wisdom and Where to Find it, Barry Long
Barry was one of Eckhart Tolle’s main influences. I got to know Barry fairly well, although I never wanted to be in his inner circle. I read this book many years ago when it was a typewritten transcript, bundled together into a rough folder. There were only around 20 or so copies in circulation, and I got hold of one. It was eventually published as a standard paperback, years later. I was amazed by its power, and it was like nothing else I had read before. But that’s Barry for you.
The Infinite Way, Joel Goldsmith
Gentle Joel. The Infinite Way is his best known book, but probably isn’t his best (try: Between The Parentheses). With Joel, it’s not so much what he says as the way he says it. His compassion, love and selflessness exude from every page. I also wanted to include at least one book from the Christian tradition, and Joel’s as good as anyone.
Enlightenment is a Secret, Andrew Cohen
Andrew is a controversial figure, but when I picked up this book I knew very little about him—and that has to be the best way to approach any work. It was another ‘blew my mind’ moment when I first read this book; it was powerful, different and special. Strangely, the book had far more impact than his talk I went to several months later. Was that me or him?
All of that was by way of an invitation for you to tell me your top 10 books. So over to you.